It has been a busy year for the Northern Irish music scene and as usual there have been some truly excellent singles released. It was a tough old slog and there may have been a few arguments amongst the team but we can now reveal our favourite tracks from 2015.
No 25 ►Owen McGarry – Secret
On an EP that ventures into numerous genres including rock, folk, and pop, with some indie and drum and bass influences for good measure, “Secret” stands out as the perfect example of all of them. The song is hook after hook with its insanely catchy melody and chorus, powered by McGarry’s voice and backed by a fantastic band, helped along with a slick production.
No 24 ►Rex Shachath – Revocation Of The Blood Effect
Bowel-loosening death metallers Rex Shachath are back after a period of inactivity. ‘Revocation of the Blood Elect’, from the EP of the same name, is as dark and furious as you would expect, with excellent production and intelligent, pissed off lyrics. Malevolent and menacing – exactly as death metal should be.
No 23 ►January – Polar
Sounding like an outtake from ‘Diary’ by Sunny Day Real Estate, the wistful melody compliments the reserved and observational (as well as emotional) lyrics. Direct as well as dreamy, it’s the perfect soundtrack for the post Christmas/pre New Year period where you reminisce on the past year and dream for the future.
No 22 ►Ciaran Lavery & Ryan Vail – The Colour Blue
Ciaran Lavery & Ryan Vail’s ‘Sea Legs’ unique collaboration caused a bit of a wave when it was released earlier this year. Lavery’s gentle yet emotive voice coupled with Vail’s minimalist electronic soundscape is represented perfectly on ‘The Colour Blue’, an atmospheric song of yearning, capturing the best of both artists trademark sounds blending together effortlessly.
No 21 ►Sea Pinks – Depth Of Field
On ‘Depth of Field’, the trio consisting of Neil Brogan, Davey Agnew and Steven Henry are in characteristically fine form. It’s another slice of blissfully laid back guitar pop in the vein of Real Estate or Beach Fossils.
No 20 ►His New Atlas – Saints
His New Atlas have put out some excellent music so far but 2015 saw the release of their best in ‘Saints’. Layers of instrumentation combine with typically heartfelt vocals to give us one of the best examples of atmospheric pop we have heard in a long time.
No 19 ►Screaming Eagles – Breakin’ All The Rules
Second single from latest album Stand Up and Be Counted, ‘Breakin’ All the Rules’ showcases the Screagles at their rocking finest, all moody riffs and throaty, rugged vocals. We defy you to listen to this and try to stop yourself from bopping and toe-tapping along to the bouncy beat!
No 18 ►Maverick – Got It Bad
After the muscular ‘Paint By Numbers’ from debut full length Quid Pro Quo, rockers Maverick released ‘Got It Bad’, a song of regret, lost love and a hook so huge and deep that it could pull in a Great White. Listen to this and unleash your inner Eighties rock god.
No 17 ►HOW – Suzie
HOW became one of our favourite local acts in 2015 with their empathetic and euphoric live shows proving to be a welcome shot in the arm. Their debut album This Is A Raid was chock full of great singles but ‘Suzie’ was the clear highlight. The bellowing vocals of Pete Kerr are the perfect foil for Ben Whittington’s sweeter voice and the song is littered with glorious hooks.
No 16 ►Ryan McMullan – Holding Me Down
Talented singer songwriter has cultivated a legion of fans already and most are familiar with this heavy hitter. The Portaferry man has created a smooth and punchy number that features a memorable, foot tapping chorus and will surely propel him onto bigger and better things in 2016.
No 15 ►Gascan Ruckus – Goodbye
Their debut record Narrow Defeats and Bitter Victories is still a good few weeks away from release but the lead single from it was a real statement of intent. The Armagh outfit are no strangers to riffs but ‘Goodbye’ saw them show off their melodic sensibilities with tremendous effect.
No 14 ►Runaway Go – Alive
Originally a four piece, 2015 saw Runaway GO become a two piece as Dave and Fiona sought to finish their long awaited debut album. ‘Alive’ is a tender and sweet pop anthem that as been lovingly crafted by the charismatic duo and proves that their ability for constructing great music remains undiminished.
No 13 ►Sister Ghost – Spineless Whisper
This track from the Shannon D O’Neill fronted Sister Ghost brings the swagger of early 90s rock, sounding like a call to arms for the grunge era. The band’s live performances are typically heavy, high octane affairs, with ‘Spineless Whisper’ channeling that energy in its 4 minutes 22 seconds.
No 12 ►Lilla Vargen – This Is Love
Lilla Vargen literally appeared from thin air earlier this year, dropping a beautiful piano ballad that captured the attention of many in the blogosphere. ‘This Is Love’ proved that sometimes the simplest approach provides the most enchanting result.
No 11 ►LORIS – Crazy
LORIS continued their rise to prominence with the release of the sprightly electro pop anthem, ‘Crazy’. We have come to expect huge choruses from the four piece and this single doesn’t disappoint.
No 10 ►New Ancestors – Annabelle
‘Annabelle’ was a marked change in direction for New Ancestors. Gone is the wistful folk pop of their previous releases replaced by a bold and refreshing pop rock sound. A trend of this list seems to be catchy choruses and ‘Annabelle’ was stuck in our for many months after its release.
No 9 ►Travis Is A Tourist – Loosen Up
Travis Gilbert’s new moniker of Travis Is A Tourist may be a million miles away from his previous band’s style and genre (Colly Strings) but it could be argued that it has produced his best work. Case in point is ‘Loosen Up’, a soulful lament about love that goes someway to achieving his aim of marrying Ryan Adams with a slice of Prince-esque R’n’B.
No 8 ►Hot Cops – Six
‘Six’ throws up plenty of Carl Eccles’ lyrical eccentricities and brilliance but it’s the twenty-feet tall hook that you’ll struggle to shake from memory. The whole track builds to an explosive crescendo that words can scarcely do justice to. As talented as Hot Cops are, this one will be hard to top.
No 7 ►Pleasure Beach – Go
Still in their infancy, the band’s rapid rise has been aided by killer tracks like ‘Go’ alongside attention grabbing live sets. Like Bruce Springsteen trying his hand at electro-pop, and with a thrilling sense of urgency, this is certainly an aural pleasure.
No 6 ►David C Clements – My Dear Mother
Locking yourself away for many months means you leave plenty of time to produce something you are happy with but also generates a level of expectation from your fan base. Unsurprisingly David C Clements emerges from that long hibernation with the majestic ‘My Dear Mother’. It is fulsome, chest beating, alt-folk at its finest.
No 5 ►SOAK – Sea Creatures
Bridie Monds-Watson aka SOAK simply had to feature in our list and she breaches the Top 5 with a reworked version of her original single ‘Sea Creatures’. The ode to a friend being bullied is now flush with layered strings and an immersive soundscape that brings to the surface the full potential of the original recording.
No 4 ►More Than Conquerors – Red
Swansongs are rarely anything other than bitter sweet but More Than Conquerors went out with a bang. ‘Red’ is a song brimming with swagger and aggression. In their live set it was an epic riff laden affair that was brilliantly captured in the single released on their own Oil Tape Records.
No 3 ►R51 – Pillow Talk
Taken from their blistering EP of the same name, ‘Pillow Talk’ was the clear standout. Unashamedly riff laden, this dreamy alt rock juggernaut manages to throw in one of the catchiest choruses our ears have had the pleasure of digesting in a long time.
No 2 ►The Emerald Armada – This House
A band that continues to push the boat out and challenge themselves to reach even greater heights. Their year culminated with a huge show in the cavernous Limelight however the real highlight was the release of ‘This House’. A re-affirming release which stays true to Americana roots whilst delivering a tantalisingly tasty alt rock vibe.
No 1 ►Silences – The Sea
We always have high expectations when it comes to anything released by Silences and yet again they haven’t let us down. It starts with some quiet and wistfult folk underneath Conchúr White’s vocals, rising to a stunning crescendo that will leave anyone but the hardest of hearts swooning. The young band have the ambition to make 2016 their own if they continue to churn out triumphs like this.
Contributions by Robert Brown, Aaron Cunningham, Melanie Brehaut, Conor Kerr, and Christopher Owens.
STREAM ►Spotify Playlist
You can listen to the full playlist via Spotify however it is missing tracks from Travis Is A Tourist, Sister Ghost, January and Rex Shachath as they aren’t on the streaming service.